Saying Goodbye to Dear Friends

Last night the oldest of my dog friends passed away. In the past two years, all three of the original crew of dogs who were my closest animal friends during the chapter of my life that began in Humboldt County, California have died. This includes Stella, the wonderful dog my wife and I adopted just over 10 years ago, as well as Lucky, the beloved “prince” (as I called him) who lived a full life with my mother and step-father, also in Eureka.

Rudy’s passing truly marks the end of an era for me and my closest friends from Northern California. He was the eldest of the three dogs, and decidedly the alpha of the group. Before I had Stella, Rudy and I spent months together traveling the Northwest while his owner, Nick, would visit family in Hawaii. This is a dog who always understood his geographical whereabouts and could easily find his way home from anywhere in Humboldt County, and seemed to always have a firm grasp on what was going on with his human counterparts.

When Stella died last year, the entire experience was extremely sobering. She was not even 10 years old, and with no warning she fell severely ill and was gone within 36 hours. We ensured that she passed in the comfort of our home, cradled in my arms and with my wife and our surviving dog, Cleo, at her side. After speaking today with my long-time friend, Nick, I understand Rudy had a similar end-of-life experience. There is a lot to be said for witnessing the passing of a loved one. Though, in my opinion, being present to experience the death of a loved one unquestionably helps his or her survivors cope with the loss and move forward after the fact, there is a still a great deal of mourning that lies ahead. Though it may today be a bit less difficult to revisit memories of my dear friends Stella, Rudy, and Lucky, I felt compelled to put together a bit of a memorial here in the form of a photo slideshow and a short video I made with some photos I pulled together quickly from my archives. I hope the friends and families of these beautiful creatures enjoy the memories in these images, and I apologize for not investing the time to dig up even more imagery and stories to share and remember them by. Sometimes just a brief review is better than a full blown cinematic experience. I hope this is one of those times.

Memorial Video


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3 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye to Dear Friends”

  1. Marshall Stokes says:

    Some quick stats on Stella:

    • The smallest of a pack of four siblings, Stella was rescued literally from the side of the highway around the age of five or six months old
    • We believed her to be part chocolate lab (primary coat color and lab tail), part doberman (facial markings and demeanor), and part malamute or husky (few breeds have bare lips beneath the nose like she had)
    • She was fiercely loyal and wary of strangers. This made her a less than ideal social dog, but a great watch dog in a high crime area like Humboldt
    • As a puppy she loved riding in cars, but over her lifetime she was in three separate car accidents with me, including a roll-over on I-5 at 70mph from which I, my wife, and Stella all walked away effectively uninjured (Subarus are incredibly safe vehicles!). After so many car accidents she became uncomfortable on road trips and sometimes needed mild sedation for the stress
    • Stella was a fence-climber in her younger years. No fence was too high if she decided she needed to escape a yard, kennel, or other fenced area. As a young dog if we would leave her in the back yard of a friend’s house, for example, while visiting, she would immediately climb the fence and wait at the front door of the home. Once she was left in the back yard of my parents-in-law while we all went to dinner many miles away. We later received a phone call that Stella had been found wandering the streets by a passerby in a car who opened up the passenger side door and found that Stella simply hopped right in the car. The stranger took her home and phoned the number on her collar. When we arrived to pick her up, the couple who had called us told us flat out that had they waited to get to know the dog before calling, they likely would never have called because Stella was so obedient, good looking, and well behaved!
    • Stella was no especially fond of other dogs, apart from those in her extended pack. She grew up with Rudy and Lucky as her elders, and later took a liking to Cleo, the rescue dog who joined my family about four years ago. Though she mostly tolerated Cleo, there was no question she cared deeply for her younger pack member, as evidenced by her insistence on finding Cleo under all circumstances if ever they were separated. This led to Stella being banned from multiple dog kennels, and ultimately we were forced to either travel with both dogs or ensure they were boarded in the same shared space in any kennel they stayed in.

    Nick/Molly, I would love to hear some Rudy stories if you have any interest in writing something up here. He experienced so much in his long life and there truly are some great stories. Especially ones about him traveling by foot for miles and miles to find Nick no matter where he was, or the time he escaped a burning vehicle and simply walked home.

    And Lucky, a dog truly deserving of his name. Once run over by a full sized Chevy pickup at 35mph, and always willing to go to battle with raccoons or other wild animals despite his small stature, I think he had more stitches and veterinary patch-ups than any dog I know!

  2. nick says:

    This is absolutely amazing. Thank you so much. They were a special group for sure. I’ve been hearing tons of Rudy stories for the past few days all of which bring a smile to my face and a tears to my eyes. Its amazing how much I relied on him without even realizing it. Rudy was truly one in a million and as much as I miss him I am also thankful for the time I had with him. I may not have had any business getting a dog when I did, and I certainly wasn’t looking for one, but he came to me, and I cant imagine those years without him.
    He went 4 years before i got him neutered, and during that time, he took every opportunity to sneak out for an adventure. I lived on the edge of the HSU campus at the time, and i would get phone calls from friends and family telling me that they had just seen Rudy running across campus like a dog on a mission.
    The most memorable story was the time my roommates Sean and Justin and i walked from our house to the plaza in Arcata to have a beer. It’s probably a 2 mile walk, with a major freeway cutting through the path. We had called it a night, and were headed home, just passing Don’s Donuts. “Wouldn’t it be weird if Rudy showed up?” Sean said. Almost immediatly I looked up and saw a brown dog a block or two ahead, making his way through the crowd, nose in the air, ignoring all of the kids trying to pet him. “Rudy?!” I yelled. “He immediatly spotted us and sprinted over, proud and excited to have found us. It took us all a minute to actually believe what had just happened and I still cant believe it sometimes. We figured he must have just taken our exact route, using our scent to guide him. I’m not sure where he got his street smarts, but they served him well. He waited at crosswalks unassisted for the light to change. He outsmarted the dog catcher on numerous occasions.(after being caught once) He understood things and knew his way around. He was an amazing pup. I miss him terribly.

    1. Marshall Stokes says:

      I can’t even count the times Rudy would bail from my place to go find you on a job site, and he always seemed to locate you one way or another.

      When I took him on that epic road trip to my college town in northern Idaho to visit friends in 2002 (I think), people were so impressed with his general obedience and innate understanding of human behavior and communication. One time I was on foot with him (no leash, of course), and decided to grab some lunch at a grocery store. I sat Rudy down at the entrance to the store, told him to stay put, and when I came back out he was, of course, sitting there waiting for me. A man nearby walked up to me and said, in an almost annoyed tone, “That is a GOOD dog.” I figure the guy probably tried to call Rudy over, or maybe even pet him and Rudy likely gave him a slight growl or something. In any case, I could always leave Rudy like that and count on him to not only be there when I returned but to not get in any trouble while I was away.

      If I recall correctly, the final events that pushed you to have Rudy neutered were that he was taking off for days on end and coming home smelling like absolute shit, as though he’d been rolling around in the stagnant ditches around town. There were also times when he was spotted crossing Myrtle Ave. without regard for traffic, and I think that made us all scared enough for his well being that you knew it was time to have him “fixed.” I honestly think he blamed me for that, since he wasn’t ever quite as warm with me afterwards, but that could also be because all of our living arrangements changed and Rudy was no longer involved in my at-home world.

      In any case, he was definitely one-in-a-million, and while he’ll be greatly missed, all those years of companionship and stories are positive enough to make his passing less traumatic and more an opportunity to reflect on so many good times.

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